The state abbreviation for North Carolina is NC. It is located in the southeastern United States and is bordered by South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Atlantic Ocean. While it is the 28th largest state, it has the 9th largest population. It has the nicknames "Tar Heel State" and the "Old North State."
Today we'll examine the geography, climate, history, and culture of this state. Just like the other 50 U.S. States, there are plenty of things that make this one unique. Before we begin, here are some key facts to know:
Motto: Esse quam videri "To be, rather than to seem."
State Song: "The Old North State."
Mammal: Eastern gray squirrel
Insect: European honey bee
Reptile: Eastern box turtle
NC State Overview
The state is composed of 100 counties. The largest areas here are among the top ten fastest-growing in the nation. They include the capital, Raleigh, and the largest city, Charlotte. Over the last fifty years, NC has transitioned the economy from tobacco, textiles, and furniture-making, to a larger suite of specialties like engineering, energy, biotechnology, and finance.
There is a wide range of elevation found throughout the state. The coast is at sea level, and the highest point is at Mount Mitchell which is 6,699 feet.
Geography and Climate
The United States Census Bureau classifies NC as a southern state, with the subcategory making it one of the South Atlantic States. There are three distinct geographical regions here: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, which takes up the eastern half of the state, the Piedmont region, which takes up the middle, and the Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands in Albemarle, and Pamlico Sound in the north and south respectively.
More than 1,000 ships have sunk off Cape Hatteras since recording began in 1526. This has earned it the name "Graveyard of the Atlantic." The most famous ship among these is the Queen Anne's Revenge which was piloted by Blackbeard. It ran aground in Beaufort Inlet in 1718.
Moving inland, the soil becomes flat and fertile. This is where tobacco, soybeans, melons, and cotton are grown. The coastal plain overall is the most rural area of the state, with very few major towns or cities to speak of. Agriculture is an important part of the industry.
The Atlantic Seaboard fall line marks the transition from the coastal plains to the Piedmont region. This line is where the elevation causes the appearance of waterfalls on streams and rivers. This is where the most urban centers will be found.
This area is characterized by gentle hills and low mountain ridges. The mountain ranges in the Piedmont region are small, isolated, and deeply eroded. Some of the notable ones include the following:
The population has been exploding over the last few years, resulting in much of the rural areas here being turned into suburbs, shopping centers, and corporate offices. The western portion of the state falls into the Appalachian Mountain range.
There are several subranges in the state as well:
Great Smoky Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
Great Balsam Mountains
The black mounts culminate in North Carolina's highest point, Mount Mitchell, which is 6,684 feet. While agriculture has always been important, tourism is a rising factor in this area for the economy. There are also 17 major river basins in the state.
Much like the geography, the climate here can be divided into regional zones. The coastal plain is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean which keeps things mild in winter, and somewhat humid in the summer. In summer, the highest temperature near the coast is usually an average of 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Atlantic Ocean doesn't influence the central Piedmont region as much. Here summers are hotter, and winters are colder. The mountain area is where the temperatures are coldest. Mount Mitchell for example receives snow every month of the year.
Severe weather is common here. Hurricanes usually hit the state at least once per decade. Some particularly strong ones include Fran, Floyd, and Hazel. Hurricane Isabel is the strongest to hit the state in the 21st century, hitting at a Category 4 level.
The History of North Carolina
Prior to 200 A.D., the indigenous peoples of what would later become NC were building earthwork mounds for ceremonial and religious reasons. By 1,000 A.D., the people in the Piedmont region had begun building on these mounds. In the 500-700 years leading up to European contact, the cultures here built large cities and established trade networks.
A number of tribes were living here in the coastal and central areas. The Spanish attempted to settle the area by building forts during the Juan Pardo expedition in the 1560's. These forts and their garrisons were destroyed by Indians.
English colonists tried to settle here in the 1580's but both settlements failed. One of them, Roanoke, had its entire population disappear, something that remains a mystery to this day. It took until 1640 before growth was seen as colonists migrated from Virginia.
During the American Revolution, the colony was a Patriot base. The Halifax Resolves were issued by the local legislature to authorize delegates to vote for Independence at the Second Continental Congress.
Through the course of the nineteenth century, NC was a rural state without any cities and very few villages. The eastern part of the state grew after 1800 when the cotton gin was invented and cotton became a highly profitable crop.
During the Civil War, NC fought for the Confederacy after it had seceded from the Union. More soldiers from this state fought in the war than from other any other state.
Before you move on to the next state, be sure to check out our North Carolina state facts page for even more information about this place. As a beautiful and varied state, we recommend a visit!